After a promising start, the Tampa Bay Lightning are sliding down the standings thanks to five regulation losses in their last six games.
Injuries to their top two goal-scorers ahead of the team’s longest road trip of the season don’t figure to help.
The Lightning may be without Steven Stamkos(notes) and Ryan Malone(notes) as they play the first of six straight road games Friday night at Colorado, where the Avalanche will be looking to rebound from a shutout loss that began a lengthy homestand.
Tampa Bay’s 3-2 home loss to Edmonton on Wednesday may have been the most painful in their recent slump as Stamkos (upper-body injury) and Malone (lower body) left the game. Both are considered day to day, leaving their statuses unclear for Friday’s game.
Stamkos, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2008, is having a breakout season with 30 points in 30 games, while Malone is close behind with 27 points. The duo has combined for 33 of the team’s 75 goals.
“Teams go through injuries. It’s our turn and you’ve got to suck it up,” coach Rick Tocchet told the Lightning’s official Web site. “The guys that haven’t played much, the guys that have been asking to play more, here’s your chance. It’s put up or shut up for some of those guys. They want ice time, they’re going to get it. Let’s see what they’ve got.”
The Lightning (11-11-8) had the second-worst record of any team last season, but Stamkos’ emergence and an improved defense helped them start 8-4-6.
Offensive problems have been at the center of their recent slump, which could continue if they don’t improve on their 4-7-4 road mark. Tampa Bay has scored nine goals in its last six games, going 1-5-0 in that stretch - including a 3-0 home loss to Colorado on Nov. 30.
The Avalanche (17-10-6) have also needed a turnaround after finishing at the bottom of the West last season, but they have shown few signs of slowing down, closing out a recent five-game trip with a 3-1-1 record.
They’ll hope to quickly bounce back from a 1-0 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday, the first of five straight at the Pepsi Center. Colorado couldn’t convert any of its six power play chances after tallying a goal with the man advantage in seven of the previous eight games.
“We have to be better on the power play,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. “We’ll continue to work on it and we’ll get better at it.”
Colorado is hoping to have goaltender Craig Anderson(notes) back after he missed the last four games with a neck injury. Anderson has a 2.65 goals-against average in his first season with the Avalanche, helping to improve an area where the team had major problems in 2008-09.
He shut out the Lightning with 33 saves last month, leading Colorado to its fifth straight win over Tampa Bay.
“He feels like he’s ready to go,” Sacco told the Avalanche’s official Web site after Anderson practiced Thursday. “We’ll wait until (Friday) morning to see how he responds.
“We played very well against them in Tampa Bay to start out our last road trip,” the coach added. “We’re looking to respond with a good effort.”